arizona state university

Gel-Fuel and The Twig Light Profile

Gel-Fuel and The Twig Light

Arizona State University

ASU is represented by two teams at this year’s event: Gel-Fuel and The Twig Light.

The Gel-Fuel team is working to create a solution to the human respiratory illnesses that result from indoor air pollution generated by solid cooking fuel. They have developed a working prototype of a clean burning Gel-Fuel stove that utilizes an ASU-built ethanol still as a source of fuel. The gelled ethanol fuel (as well as a burn chamber that can be retrofitted into existing stoves) creates a more sustainable way of life and method to combat the devastating personal and environmental health risks involved with daily indoor cooking with wood or other carbon-dense biomasses. A prototype is up and running in Domeabra, Ghana.

The Twig Light makes use of existing waste energy to produce clean electric light inside homes. The light works by applying a temperature difference across two surfaces of a thermoelectric generator. The upper section of the device is a small combustion chamber intended for burning any combustible material (e.g., twigs) and the lower section sits in a pan of water. The combustion process heats the upper chamber, establishing a temperature difference between the heated upper and cooled lower sections. This temperature difference powers the thermoelectric generator, establishing a voltage through the circuit and powering a bank of LEDs.

Daylight Solutions LLC has been created to bring The Twig Light to market; final prototypes are currently undergoing usability testing.

back to complete list of Open Minds 2011 teams

The Twig Light: wood burning power for off-grid communities

Another NCIIA E-Team company to watch...

The team behind the Twig Light, a project from Arizona State University, has formed Daylight Solutions, LLC, to move the technology towards market. Michael Pugliese, a mechanical engineering technology graduate student, designed the sustainable lighting technology last spring in response to Ghanaian villagers’ requests for lights. The Twig Light is a wood-powered flashlight that also might have application as a mobile phone charger (photo by Brian McCollow).

Engineering for Change has a story on the Twig Light.


GlobalResolve: Development of the Twig Light

Arizona State University, 2009 - $16,000

GlobalResolve (GR) is a program at Arizona State that starts village-based ventures in developing countries by introducing sustainable technologies that address economic and health issues. One of those technologies is the Twig Light, a low-cost, sustainable light source. It consists of a wafer-type thermoelectric generator sandwiched between the upper and lower portions of a small box. The upper section is a small combustion chamber in which the user puts small pieces of wood (twigs) to be burned. The lower section sits on the ground or in a few centimeters of water. When the burning wood heats the upper chamber, the temperature difference between the two sections powers the thermoelectric generator, which powers the lights.

An alpha prototype has been developed and tested. With NCIIA funding the team will refine the Twig Light design, test it again, and distribute twenty prototypes to villages in Malawi and Ghana where they’ve worked previously. After a year of field testing they’ll interview villagers about the light, develop a final design, and establish manufacturing capability and supply chains in Malawi and Ghana.


In 2010, the Twig Light team established a company, Daylight Solutions, LLC.   Ghanaian partners include one company (Amstar Inc.), an NGO (The Center for Energy, Environment and Sustainable Development, CEESD) and Nana Afaokwa, the paramount chief of the Domeabra region in Ghana.

The students in Ghana have formed an NGO (The Center for Energy, Environment and Sustainable Development, CEESD)

The project is moving from the research phase into a venture with the Ghanaian partners. The first 100 commercial prototypes will be manufactured in the US to perfect the process, possibly this year, in a manufacturing cell consisting of micro-CNC equipment. This cell will either be shipped to Ghana or replicated in that country. The initial manufacturing location will be in Domeabra, a village near Kumasi. Plans are to expand to Cameroon and Kenya in a year.

Story about Twiglight

Engineering for Change (Nov 2010)




GlobalResolve: Starting a GelFuel Business in Rural Ghana

Arizona State University, 2007 - $49,468

According to the World Health Organization, "cooking and heating with solid fuels such as dung, wood, agricultural residues or coal is likely to be the largest source of indoor air pollution globally. When used in simple cooking stoves, these fuels emit substantial amounts of pollutants, including respirable particles, carbon monoxide, nitrogen and sulfur oxides, and benzene." The Arizona State team will focus in rural areas in Ghana, where 96% of the population uses solid fuels. Through ASU's entrepreneurship program, GlobalResolve, in partnership with Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and with the cooperation of the village chief and elders in Domeabra, the team will produce a fermented, corn-based, gelled ethanol and a companion smokeless stove prototype using local resources in Ghana that can be fabricated, marketed and sold in nearby communities.


Development of a Novel, Low-Cost Point of Care HIV Viral Load Diagnostic for Resource-Limited Communities

Arizona State University at the Tempe Campus, 2008 - $20,000

HIV viral load testing, which measures the number of HIV copies in a milliliter of blood, provides important information in monitoring the status of HIV disease by guiding recommendations for therapy and predicting the future course of the disease. However, the current viral load test is expensive ($50k initial capital outlay, $40 per test), requires skilled technicians and significant training, and is available only in well-equipped medical facilities.

This E-Team is developing a new viral load test that is far cheaper ($200 capital outlay, $6 per test), does not required skilled technicians, and can be implemented in rural clinics in the developing world. The team’s simple approach is to use the naked eye to confirm the presence and quantity of HIV in the blood. The product will be a kit consisting of two pieces of equipment (a blue-light box and a water bath) and a package of inexpensive reagents that do not require cold-chain storage. Blood samples drawn from the patient are processed in 2.5 hours and read in a dark room using the blue-light: blood containing HIV above threshold levels fluoresce, indicating a high viral load.

GlobalResolve: Development of a Sustainable Gelfuel Business in Rural Ghana

Arizona State University, 2008 - $45,150

GlobalResolve, a social entrepreneurship program at Arizona State University, will expand a successful project in village-based entrepreneurship that has resulted in the production of smokeless cooking fuel in the rural west African village of Domeabra, Ghana. More than 2 million children in the developing world are dying every year from acute respiratory disease caused by fumes from indoor cooking fires. To address this problem, in 2008 an Arizona State University team designed, built, shipped and installed a gelfuel production facility in Domeabra, and the project is on the verge of making dramatic improvements in public health throughout the region. The next step is helping to make this startup business successful and replicable. In partnership with the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, Ghana, the Kumasi Institute of Technology, Energy and Environment, and the village chief and elders in Domeabra, this team has the primary objective to create a sustainable business model in Domeabra, Ghana, to produce, market and distribute both gelfuel and improved stoves in the region.


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